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Sunday 25 August 2019

Taoiseach's sorrow for Ana's parents as leaders pledge action on net porn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland may follow UK’s lead
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland may follow UK’s lead

New laws to restrict access to pornography are to be considered in the wake of the Ana Kriegel murder trial.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dail that "all our hearts go out to the parents of the young woman who was killed, and also the parents of the two boys".

He was responding to questions about the Government's plans to clamp down on the ease with which young people can access pornography online.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin described Ana's murder as "horrific". He noted that one of the two boys is reported to have had two mobile phones "full of pornographic images".

"His internet searches in previous years are reported to have included child pornography and animal pornography," Mr Howlin said.

Impact

The TD said it would be "up to professionals to assess the impact of such material on impressionable children" - but legislators needed to draw their own conclusions from the trial.

"We can clearly and unambiguously say this material should not be accessible to children," he added.

Mr Howlin asked whether Ireland should consider following a UK plan to block pornographic material until an internet user provides proof that they are aged 18 or over.

From July 15, commercial providers of online pornography in the UK will be required to carry out "robust" age verification checks on users.

Websites that refuse can be blocked by UK internet service providers.

Taoiseach said our hearts go out to Ana’s parents, Geraldine and Patric Kriegel
Taoiseach said our hearts go out to Ana’s parents, Geraldine and Patric Kriegel

The move has proved controversial, with some campaigners arguing it will result in the creation of a database of people who view porn.

The UK government was also forced to exempt large social media sites from the ban owing to fears that a strict implementation would result in sites including Twitter, Reddit, Imgur and Tumblr being blocked for adult content.

The Taoiseach agreed that the new approach in the UK was worth considering. "It is a concern that pornography is so accessible to young people. Indeed so many young people learn about sex through pornography, which is not an accurate representation of what is healthy in life," Mr Varadkar said.

"The UK law is relatively new and we do not yet know whether it will be effective."

He suggested that after a year of the UK system being in force, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan would seek a report from his counterparts in London "on whether this has been effective or if there have been unintended consequences".

Mr Varadkar noted that the Government is already bringing forward an online safety Bill.

Suicide

"That will put new requirements on online platforms including an online safety code," he said.

"It will also prohibit the cyberbullying of minors and harmful material that promotes suicide, self-harm and bulimia and anorexia. There will be an online safety commissioner."

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said: "Today, reports online, on every radio station and in every newspaper are about how easy it is for children and teenagers to access pornography.

"Many parents across the country are wondering how best to protect our children and, while no one can protect them 100pc, it is certainly time the legislators caught up and addressed this issue."

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